Al-Qaida hostage 'may have been dead before raid'

The North Africa branch of al-Qaida may have executed a French hostage in the Sahara before a failed raid to free him, France’s prime minister said today.

Francois Fillon said France is “at war against al-Qaida” and defended what he called a last-ditch effort to free 78-year-old hostage Michel Germaneau last week.

The terrorist group’s North African offshoot said on Sunday that it had killed Mr Germaneau in retaliation for a raid by Mauritanian and French forces in which six al-Qaida militants were killed.

Mr Fillon said today that French authorities considered the possibility that Mr Germaneau “had already been dead” at the time of a July 12 ultimatum issued by the terrorist group but ordered French forces to carry out the operation anyway in the hope they could still save him.

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